Former trial lawyer celebrates 103rd Birthday; centenarians honored

The celebrant, Rufino Ortiz, Sr. (seated left) is flanked by friends and family on his 103rd Birthday celebration

By Elpidio Estioko

FREMONT – A self-made man who began as a janitor and ultimately became a successful trial lawyer celebrated his 103rd birthday last July 22 at World Gourmet Buffet.

Rufino Ortiz, Sr. struggled against all odds to be a public servant and an educator in the city of Urdaneta in Pangasinan. Before his lucrative bar practice, he was appointed as the Associate Justice of the Peace in Urdaneta Regional Trial Court. He accepted clients who can’t afford expensive legal fees. That’s why he was dubbed the Lawyer of the Poor and the Oppressed.

His family immigrated to the US in 1981, leaving behind a flourishing career which spanned decades of public service. His practice was made memorable with a succession of accomplishments, honors and awards. His wife, Maxima Pajatin Ortiz, turned 96 last year. His eight children are successful professionals in their chosen fields. They will celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on January 28, 2018.

When asked how he reached the age of 103, he told the FilAm Star, “…I never smoke and I never drink alcohol. And when I am not feeling well, I am brought to the doctor for treatment. And I am married to a very lovely lady who is now 96 years old and who takes care of me, and that we have been together for 74 years now. .. I have to do my daily exercise as suggested by my physical therapist”.

Two years ago, The Global Urdanetanians (TGU), a non-profit organization based in Southern California, conferred on him the distinction of an Outstanding Urdanetanian, the first ever award given by the organization to a distinguished Urdanetanian.

Ortiz, like other Filipino centenarians, is entitled to a cash gift of PHP 100,000 and an increase in senior citizens discount from 20 to 50 percent on the sale of goods and services. Philippine House Bill No. 834 (Centenarians Act of 2010) authored by Minority Leader Edcel Lagman also gives centenarians value-added tax (VAT) exemptions.

Based on the 2010 estimate of the National Statistics Office (NSO), there are about 8,000 Filipino centenarians. Section 3 of the Centenarians Act of 2010 provides that, as part of the annual Family Week celebration from September 19 to 28, the 25th of this month shall be declared as National Respect for Centenarians Day.

During that celebration, Filipinos who have turned 100 years old in the current fiscal year shall be awarded a plaque of recognition and a cash incentive by their respective city or municipal governments in appropriate ceremonies in addition to the recognition and PHP 100, 000 cash gift.

Social Welfare and Development Sec. Judy Taguiwalo signed the implementing rules and regulations of the Filipino Centenarians Act of 2013 in Malacañang on September 26, 2016. Local Government Units (LGUs) must honor their constituents who reach 100 years old and above, under the newly signed implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law providing recognition to centenarians.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is tasked to monitor the compliance of LGUs. The law covers all Filipino centenarians living in the country or abroad. For the first year of the law’s implementation, the monetary gift will be sourced from the available funds of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Subsequent funding should be detailed in the General Appropriations Act.

The DSWD has a proposed budget of PHP 17.9 billion for the social pension of senior citizens for 2017.